Britain will leave the European Union single market, Prime Minister Theresa May announces, warning that no deal is better than a bad deal with the EU.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (JANUARY 17, 2017) (UK POOL) – Britain will leave the EU’s single market when it exits the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday (January 17), putting an end to speculation that London might try to seek a “soft Brexit”.
In a long-awaited speech in which she sought to define the country’s future as a global player that aims to trade freely far beyond Europe, May said the final exit deal would be put to parliament for a vote.
May said she would seek an equal partnership with the EU but that she would not adopt models already used by other countries that have free trade agreements with the bloc.
Her statement that Britain would leave the single market was by far the clearest indication she has ever given of her plans for the future, after months of criticism that she was not being sufficiently transparent.
“I want to be clear: What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” May told an audience of foreign diplomats and Britain’s own Brexit negotiating team at a mansion house in London.
“Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it though a new comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement. That agreement may take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas,” May said.
Her announcement that she will put the final Brexit deal to a vote in both houses of parliament comes ahead of a court decision on whether she has the power to start the process of withdrawing without parliamentary approval.
She has said she plans to launch the two-year exit negotiation process by the end of March.
Britons’ vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge number of questions about immigration, the future rights of the many EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom and the rights of Britons living on the continent.
May re-iterated she had heard the public’s concerns over unlimited migration from the EU into Britain.
“The message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe and that is what we will deliver,” she said.
May said that not reaching a deal with the European Union would be better than concluding a bad exit deal for Britain and warned leaders of the 27 other members not to try to punish Britons for voting to leave.
“We will seek to avoid a disruptive cliff edge and we will do everything we can to phase in the new arrangements we require as Britain and the EU move towards our new partnership,” she said.
“I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal, that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path. That would be an act of calamitous self harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend. Britain would not, indeed we could not accept such an approach,” she said.
The Brexit talks, expected to be one of the most complicated negotiations in post-World War Two European history, could decide the fate of her premiership, the United Kingdom and the future shape of the European Union that Britain leaves behind.